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Gabriel was in the utmost danger of foundering, and the crew ran great hazard of perishing with their vessel. From
this melancholy fate they were saved by the promptness, energy, and judgment of their commander. "On the day above named, the manuscript states: “In the raye of an extreme storm the vessell was cast flat on her syde, and, being open in the waste, was fylled with water, so as she lay still for sunk, and would neither weare nor steare with any helpe of the helme, and could never have rysen agayn, but by the marveilous work of God's great mercy to help them all. In this distress, when all the men in the ship had lost their courage and did dispayr of life, the Captayn, like him-selfe, with valiant courage, stood up, and passed alongst the ship's side, in the chaynwales (channels), lying on her flat syde, and caught holde on the weather leche of the foresaile; but in the weather-coyling (going about) of the ship, the foreyarde brake. To ease her, the mizenmast was cut away; but she still rolled heavily, so that the water, ‘yssued from both sydes, though withall without anything fleeting over.'
As soon as practicable, the poor storm-buffeted bark was put before the sea,' and all hands were set to work to repair damages.”
The queen's name was given to a cape, fallen in with in latitude 62° 30°, and more northerly they met with another foreland, in 63° 8', which was the southern extreme of “a great gut bay, or passage, divided as it were by two maine landes, or continents assunder."
Into this strait, to which he gave his own name and by which it is still known, Frobisher penetrated between fifty and sixty leagues, at which point he met with a “salvage people, like to Tartars, with longe blacke haire, broad faces, and flatte noses, the women marked in the face with blewe streekes downe the cheekes and round about the eyes, having bootes made of seales skinnes, in shape somewhat resembling the shallops of Spain.” Here Frobisher lost a boat's crew of five men, and, notwithstanding he “shotte off falconets and sounded trumpets," he never again heard of them. In revenge, he managed, by tinkling a bell, to entice one of the natives to the ship's side, and "plucked him, by main force, boat and all, into his barke, whereupon, when he found himself in captivity, for very choler and disdaine, he bit his tongue in twaine within his mouth, notwithstanding he died not thereof, but lived untill he came to England, and then died of cold which he had taken at sea." With this “strange infidell on board, whose like was never seene, read, nor heard of before, and whose language was neither knowen nor understood of any,” Frobisher put to sea and reached Harwich on the 2nd October.
2 “ North-West Voyage,” pp. 11-12.
Frobisher's reception at home was very flattering; "he was highly commended of all men for his great and noble attempt, but specially famous for the great hope he brought, of a passage to Cataya.” Nevertheless, it is more than probable that very little attention would have been given to the prosecution of the discovery but for a singular incident, which was the occasion of as perfect a furor among the merchants, the court, and indeed the whole nation, as the California of more modern times.
“ Some of his company brought floures, some greene grasse, and one brought a piece of blacke stone, much like to a sea cole in color, which by the waight seemed to be some kinde of metall or minerall. This was a thing of no account in the judgment of the captaine at the first sight, and yet for novelty it was kept in respect of the place from whence it came.
Āfter his arrival in London, being demanded of sundry of his friends what thing he had brought them home out of that country, he had nothing left to present them withal but a piece of this blacke stone, and it fortuned a gentlewoman, one of the adventurers wives, to have a piece thereof, which, by chance, she threw and burned in the fire, so long, that at the length being taken forth and quenched in a little vinegar, it glistened with a bright marquesset of golde. Whereupon the matter being called in some question, it was brought to certain goldfiners in London to make assay thereof, who gave out that it held golde, and that very richly for the quantity. Afterwards, the same goldfiners promised great matters thereof if there were any store to be found, and offered themselves to adventure for the searching of those parts from whence the same was brought. Some that had great hope of the matter sought secretly to have a lease at her Majesty's hands of those places, whereby to enjoy the masse of so great a public profit unto their owne private gaines.
“ In conclusion, the hope of more of the same golde ore to be found kindled a greater opinion in the hearts of many to advance the voyage againe. Whereupon preparation was made for a new voyage against the yere following, and the captaine more especially directed by commission for the searching more of this golde ore than for the searching any further discovery of the passage."
There are two different versions of this story, which it is not worth while to go into; it is quite sufficient for us to know that cupidity was the real cause of the renewal of the attempt.
Frobisher's 3 “Hakluyt,” v. ii. 59.
second expedition consisted of the Ayde, a royal ship of nearly two hundred tons, the Gabriel and the Michael, his former ships, of thirty tons each. He sailed with a “merrie wind” from Blackwall on the 26th May, 1577, and on the 7th June he was off the Orkneys, where we have the following graphic sketch of the inhabitants from the pen of George Best, the chronicler of the voyage and lieutenant of Frobisher. 66 Their houses are builded of Pibble stone, without chimnies, the fire being made in the middest thereof. The goodman, wife, children, and other of their family, eate and sleepe on the one side of the house, and the cattell on the other. Very beastly and rudely in respect of civilitie. They are destitute of wood; their fires are turffe and cowhards. Their houses are but poore without, and sluttish ynough within, and the people, in nature, thereunto agreeable. They have great want of leather, and desire our old shoes and apparell, and old ropes (before money), for victuals, and yet they are not ignorant of the value of our coine."
On the 16th July they arrived at the entrance of Frobisher's Strait, which however they did not attempt to explore, “considering the short time he had in hand, he thought it best to bend his whole endeavour for the getting of myne, and to leave the passage further to be discovered hereafter.”
On the 22nd August, having collected about two hundred tons of ore, they left the island, whence it had been principally obtained, at the same time "giving a volley of shot for a farewell, in honour of the Right Honourable Lady Anne, Countess of Warwick, whose name it beareth." After a stormy and dangerous passage, in which the ships narrowly escaped foundering, they got safe home, though at different ports.
Their arrival was hailed with the utmost enthusiasm by all classes. The queen imagined she had discovered a land which, though barren in prospcct, was equal, if not superior, in wealth to the Indies of the south; the trader dreamt of prosperous ventures and unexampled profits, and the cosmographer and the seaman, uninfluenced by any sordid motive, thought of nothing but the speedy solution of what was, even in that day, considered a vexata questio—the north-west passage.
A similar delusion, that gold was to be found in the north, existed in very early times. Mons La Peyrere informs us, that from the Danish chronicles, it appears the kings of Denmark and Norway, towards the end of the thirteenth century, sent ships to Greenland, from the then received opinion, that it abounded in veins of gold and silver and precious stones; and he adds,
perhaps that passage in Job had made some impression on their minds—Gold cometh out of the north !"" The same Danish chronicle also adds, “that in former times, certain merchants returned from Greenland with great riches.”5
4 Chap. xxxvii., v. 23. This is a marginal reading in our version.
5 It was an idea entertained by Columbus, that, as he extended his discoveries to climates more and more under the torrid influence of the sun, he should find the productions of nature sublimated by its rays to more perfect and precious qualities. He was strengthened in this belief by a letter written to him at the command of the queen, by one Jayme Ferrer, an eminent and learned lapidary, who, in the course of his trading for precious stones and metals, had been in the Levant and in various parts of the East; had conversed with the merchants of the remote parts of Asia and Africa, and the natives of India, Arabia, and Ethiopia, and was considered deeply versed in geography generally, but especially in the nature of those countries from which the valuable merchandise in which he dealt was procured. In this letter, Ferrer assured Columbus that according to his experi
the rarest objects of commerce, such as gold, precious stones, drugs and spices, were chiefly to be found in regions about the equinoctial line, ---where the inhabitants were black, or darkly coloured, and that until the admiral should arrive among people of such com